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AG in Action

AG in Action: Organizing Against Book Bans and Calling for Labor Protections Against AI

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Authors Guild and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on How They’re Fighting Book Bans

On February 15th, Authors Guild’s general counsel Cheryl Davis and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBDLF) interim director Jeff Trexler had a public conversation on U.S. book bans at an American Bar Association Intellectual Property Law Section event for attorneys. 

Trexler discussed the case he litigated, defending graphic novelist Maia Kobabe when her book Gender Queer faced an obscenity lawsuit in Virginia seeking to restrict access of the book to minors. The Authors Guild also opposed the ban in an amicus brief and the court later dismissed the ban. 

Davis discussed the Guild’s lawsuits in Arkansas and Texas seeking to overturn laws restricting student book access and burdening booksellers, arguing they violate the Constitution. The CBDLF and other groups and individuals are co-plaintiffs in these cases, with injunctions in both states upheld so far as litigation proceeds. 

When asked what individuals can do, Davis suggested informing the Guild and the CBLDF about censorship incidents so they can publicly oppose or litigate them. Trexler said the CBLDF finds one-on-one dialogues effective for collaboratively educating others. He mentioned discussions with law enforcement officials asked to charge educators, retailers, or librarians for distributing graphic novels. He said that even elected law enforcement officials who see taking action as politically advantageous tend not to want to bring a losing case.  

The presentation was so effective that the organizers were asked to offer it again at the ABA Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries Annual Meeting in Las Vegas in October. 

Authors Guild Advocates for Writers at New Democrat Coalition Event: “The Future of Work in the Age of AI”

This week, Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in a panel discussion organized by the New Democrat Coalition, made up nearly 100 members of the House of Representatives. The panel explored the impact AI will have on workers in different fields and possible legislative solutions. House members from the New Democrats AI Working Group and Workforce Development Task Force attended and asked questions about how policymakers can help prepare the workforce for AI and encourage the augmentation of human capabilities. 

In her remarks, Rasenberger emphasized the risks generative AI poses for authors and other creative professionals. She explained that AI systems like LLMs are built on vast amounts of books, articles, and other content written by experts, yet so far writers have not been compensated or given any control over how their work is used. This is siphoning income from an already financially-strapped profession. 

Rasenberger stressed that unlike screenwriters and actors, authors and journalists mostly work as independent contractors without collective bargaining rights. This leaves them powerless to negotiate fair terms for the use of their work in AI systems. She called on policymakers to extend such rights to freelance creators by adding professional freelance creators to the National Labor Relations Act. 

Rasenberger also called for legal assurance that antitrust law will not obstruct collective licensing efforts, such as a collective licensing platform the Guild is developing to better equip authors to grant permissions and receive payment for use of their writings in AI systems. In addition, she voiced Authors Guild’s support for bills that would require transparency around AI training data and clear labeling of AI-generated content.

In closing, Rasenberger asserted: “If we leave things as they are today, with authors receiving no pay for the use of their work in LLMs and no control over downstream uses, the profession will die off and we lose quality in writing.” She emphasized that authors deserve both compensation and control regarding use of their writings powering profitable AI systems.